When I think about the future of the travel industry, three words come to mind:
Cyborg Travel Agents
For that reason and many, many others, I am not the Senior Vice President of Information Services & CIO here at Travel and Transport. The talented and charming Mike Kubasik holds that position, and recently I sat down with him to get a more realistic, less “Jetsons” influenced idea of where the current technological trends within the travel industry stand.
Well it turns out it’s all about nano-computing.
I know what you are thinking – that nano-computing involves booking corporate travel on an iPod Nano somehow. Not the case. Nano-computing refers to the technology of developing new materials on the molecular and atomic levels that will lead to new advancements in all sorts of areas; from electronics, to energy production, to medicine, and beyond. As we move towards that goal, our computing devices are getting smaller and more powerful. Mike believes this represents the dominant technological trend influencing the travel industry.
Travelers can be automatically alerted of a flight cancellation and make alternative travel arrangements all on their phone. According to Mike, the personal touch and quality of service found with a skilled travel counselor will never be replaced, however, when a quick and simple change is needed and the line at the ticket counter is out into the parking lot, e-booking over the phone is a pretty handy solution.
Mike further explained, “In the future, you won’t have to open an application on your phone to find a good Italian restaurant near the airport. Your preferences will be loaded into your travel profile, and a restaurant recommendation will automatically be sent to you over your smart phone when you reach your destination.”
This technology is already being realized through GPS and location-based smart phone apps from Yelp.com and technologies like Google’s new “Goggles” system, and it will continue to be fine-tuned and integrated into our daily lives.
This caused me to utter the words, “magic phone” and stare off into space at the wonder of it all, at which point Mike asked if it might be possible to find someone else to write this blog.
I snapped to, and asked what I thought was a very salient question, “What are the down sides of this type of technology?”
As anyone knows who has sat in silence while the person you are trying to talk to scrolls through their e-mails on their phone, human interaction is a definite casualty of the mobile computing wave. In fact, regarding dinner manners, one might consider it a tsunami. Mike also pointed out that with GPS implanted in most smart phones, the presence of Big Brother watching over us is that much closer to reality. GPS is great when you get lost in the woods, but there are certain drawbacks to being tracked down because of the technology in your phone.
There’s a reason why my dog has a chip under her skin, but I don’t.
Etiquette offenses and Orwellian fears aside, Mike and I agreed that mobile computing technologies are making life easier for people and as the technology develops it will increase in its ability to do so. And after that, can cyborg travel agents really be that far behind?
Mike assures me that yes, they are extremely far behind.